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*** WARNING: You may find some stories, content or photos on this website upsetting  ***

 Pet Care:

 Under the new Animal Welfare Act, which came into force at the end of March 2007, anyone who is responsible for a pet has a legal responsibility to meet the five basic welfare needs of pets.

These are:

a proper diet, including fresh water
 
somewhere suitable to live
 
any need to be housed with or apart from, other animals
 
allowing animals to express normal behaviour
 
protect from and treatment of, illness and injury
 

 

Below is some useful information covering pet care, which we hope you will find helpful:

 

Dogs
Know what your dog needs.
more
Budgies & Canaries
Know what your budgie or canary needs.
more
Puppies
Know what your puppy needs.
more
Parrots
Know what your parrot needs.
more
Cats
Know what your cat needs.
more
Chickens
Know what your pet chickens need.
more
Rabbits
Know what your rabbit needs.
more
Reptiles
Know what your reptile needs.
more
Guinea Pigs
Know what your guinea pig needs.
more
Snakes
Know what your pet snake needs.
more
Hamster
Know what your hamster needs.
more
Lizards
Know what your pet lizard needs.
more
Gerbil
Know what your gerbil needs.
more
Tortoises & Terrapins
Know what your pet tortoise or terrapin needs.
more
Ferret
Know what your ferret needs.
more
Fish
Know what your pet fish needs.
more
Rats & Mice
Know what your rats & mice need.
more
Goldfish
Know what your pet goldfish needs.
more
Horses & Ponies
Know what your pet horse or pony needs.
more
Donkeys
Know what your pet donkey needs.
more
Stick Insect
Know what your Stick insect needs.
more
Monitoring & Health Checks

more
Cocoa Mulch
more
   

Remember - a pet needs your time and interest for the rest of its life.

All photos RSPCA

 

DOGS:
The right pet for you?

Dogs make very good friends, are intelligent, faithful and fun. But they take up a lot of time and energy, are quite expensive to look after and need plenty of space. A dog is not a good choice for people who are out all day.

What do dogs need?

  • Companionship - to be with other dogs or people and not to be left alone for too long.

  • A balanced diet.

  • A constant supply of fresh, clean water.

  • A bed and blanket.

  • A well-fenced garden to play and exercise in.

  • To be brushed every day, especially if they have long hair.

  • Help to clean their teeth. They also need to have their teeth checked regularly by the vet.

  • Regular walks and a lead for walking near traffic or farm animals.

  • Someone to clean up after them with a pooper-scooper.

  • Never to be left in a car in warm weather, even with the window open.

  • A collar and identity tag.

  • To be properly trained.

  • To be microchipped.

  • To be neutered.

  • To be taken to a vet if they are ill.

  • Injections to prevent serious diseases.

  • Worming and regular flea treatments.

  • To be looked after when you are on holiday.

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PUPPY:

Thinking of getting a puppy? Make sure you know where it comes from.

Deciding to buy a puppy should be a careful, well-thought out decision. Make sure you don't unwittingly support the cruel practice of puppy farming - the mass breeding of puppies for profit, often with little regard for animal welfare.

The Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 was introduced to give local authorities more powers to license dog breeders and help stamp out puppy farming.

All new licensed breeders have to be inspected by a vet and a local authority officer. There are strict penalties for cruel breeders who break the law.

Help stamp out the cruel practice of puppy farming by buying your puppy only from a licensed breeder or a small-scale, local breeder. Or why not give a home to a puppy from the South Bucks RSPCA.

Puppy search

  • Make sure you see a puppy with its mother when you buy from a breeder or commercial premises - this will give you a good idea of background, health, eventual size and temperament. It should stay with its mother for at least eight weeks.
     
  • Contact the RSPCA or the local council environmental health department if you are concerned about conditions at premises where puppies are sold.
     
  • Try a local small breeder who could have healthy puppies bred in a home environment - your local council dog warden, vet or animal welfare officer may be able to help.
     
  • Don't buy from a large, unlicensed breeding establishment - ask to see a copy of the breeder's licence.
     
  • Don't be tempted by advertisements offering lots of different breeds for sale - this is a tactic sometimes used by dealers selling puppies bought from unlicensed puppy farms.
     
  • Never buy a puppy from someone at a car boot sale, tabletop sale or in a car park, and avoid buying puppies from pet shops - you may be supporting the illegal and cruel practice of puppy farming.

    Choosing a puppy
     
  • Puppies must be at least eight weeks old before they leave their mother.
  • Purchase should be after, or conditional on, a satisfactory veterinary examination.
  • Avoid skinny dogs or puppies. Also avoid puppies with potbellies, as they are quite likely to have intestinal worms.
  • Never be tempted to take a puppy with runny eyes, a runny nose or a cough. Teeth should be clean and white. Gums should be pink and not smelly.
  • Make sure the puppy's bottom is clean without any signs of diarrhoea or soreness.
  • Do a quick check for fleas and other parasites - many puppies have them but they can be treated. Brown or yellow deposits in the ears are one sign of ear mites.
  • Puppies should have received the first vaccinations in their immunisation programme before they leave their mother and the vendor should supply an interim certificate.
  • Always make sure the breeder gives you a diet sheet showing how the puppy has been fed so far - moving home is enough of an upset for a young puppy without adding to it by the stress of feeding unfamiliar food.
  • If you are concerned about the welfare of a puppy contact the RSPCA cruelty and advice line on 0300 1234 999. Calls are treated in strictest confidence. If you are concerned about a pet shop or breeding establishment contact your local authority.
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    CAT:

    The right pet for you?
    Cats are very clean and make good companions for many people. But they can damage carpets and furniture with their claws and may not always want to be stroked and handled.

    What do cats need?

    • Companionship - to be with other cats or people for at least part of the day.

    • A balanced diet - make sure there are no bones in your cat's food.

    • A constant supply of fresh, clean water.

    • A garden or safe place to play and exercise every day, away from busy roads.

    • Somewhere warm and cosy to sleep.

    • To be brushed regularly, particularly when shedding their coats. Long-haired cats need to be brushed every day.

    • A scratching post.

    • Help to clean their teeth. You can brush or rub their teeth with special toothpaste. They also need to have their teeth checked regularly by the vet.

    • To come and go as they please - a cat flap is ideal.

    • To be trained to use a litter tray.

    • To be microchipped in case they get lost.

    • Cat neutering should be carried out as early as possible in order to avoid unwanted litters. Most cats are sexually mature at six months, but some cats can become pregnant as early as five months. Therefore, the ideal age to neuter your cat is between four and five months.

    • To be taken to a vet if they are ill or injured.

    • Injections to prevent certain serious diseases.

    • Worming and regular flea treatments.

    • To be looked after when you are away on holiday.

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    RABBITS:

    The right pet for you?
    Rabbits are difficult to look after. They need lots of space, and large homes that can be expensive to create. Before getting any pet, think very hard about whether you can provide everything it needs.

    What do rabbits need?

    • Companionship - to be with other rabbits or humans. The widespread practice of keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together is not recommended.
    • A mixed diet of grass, rabbit pellets, apples, carrots, dandelions and a good quantity of hay.
    • A constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water in a drip feed bottle with metal spout.
    • A large weatherproof home off the ground, out of direct sunlight and strong winds. Move to an indoor area or porch in cold weather. Many homes sold in pet shops are too small.
    • A separate covered sleeping area for each animal.
    • A clean layer of wood shavings and plenty of hay or shredded paper for bedding.
    • Daily exercise in a large, safe grassy area.
    • Rabbits burrow, so ensure the enclosure is sunk into the ground, escape-proof and safe from predators.
    • Their home to be cleaned every day and bedding changed weekly.
    • A gnawing block to wear down long teeth.
    • To be brushed every day if they have a long coat.
    • To be neutered at an early age. Ask your vet.
    • Injections to prevent serious diseases.
    • To be taken to a vet if they are ill or injured.
    • To be looked after when you are on holiday.

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    GUINEA PIGS:

    The right pet for you?
    Guinea pigs are friendly and easily tamed, but they need commitment and regular attention. Long-haired guinea pigs can be especially difficult to look after.

    What do guinea pigs need?

    • Companionship - to be with other guinea pigs. The widespread practice of keeping guinea pigs and rabbits together is not recommended.
    • Feeding twice a day, with a mixture of meadow hay, green stuff, pellets, washed fruit and vegetables.
    • A constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water in a drip feed bottle with a metal spout.
    • A large weatherproof home kept off the ground, out of direct sunlight and strong winds. It should be moved to an indoor area or porch in cold weather.
    • A separate sleeping area for each animal inside the home.
    • A clean layer of wood chippings on the floor of their home and plenty of soft hay for bedding and burrowing.
    • Daily exercise in a grassy area safe from predators and an indoor run in cold weather.
    • Their home to be cleaned every day and bedding changed weekly.
    • A gnawing block to wear down long teeth.
    • To be brushed every day if they have a long or rough-haired coat.
    • Some quiet time alone or with other guinea pigs every day.
    • To be taken to a vet if they are ill or injured.
    • To be looked after when you are on holiday.

    Life span
    Guinea pigs live for up to seven years.

    Behaviour
    In the wild, guinea pigs live in close family groups, and it is unkind to keep one guinea pig. Companionship is essential, but two adult guinea pigs that don't know each other may fight, so choose two young littermates of the same sex, a father and son, or mother and daughter. Guinea pigs have a basic need to graze and should have regular access to a grassy area. Guinea pigs also need to have their own sleeping area.

    Handling
    Approach the guinea pig from the front and on its level. Pick it up using both hands, one around the hindquarters, the other around its shoulders (for a young guinea pig) or around its chest (for an adult). Guinea pigs may become upset by too much handling.

    Breeding
    The RSPCA strongly advises that you do not breed from your guinea pigs as it is very difficult to find good homes for the young. The best way to ensure that guinea pigs do not breed is to keep males and females apart.

    A female guinea pig can produce up to five litters a year from a very young age.

    Health
    Guinea pigs should be checked regularly for overgrown claws and teeth. Both can be trimmed by a vet.

    Too much scratching results from skin problems and is often caused by mites or lice. Your vet can provide suitable treatment for these.

    Long-haired guinea pigs in particular may suffer from the potentially fatal disease flystrike, caused by flies laying eggs in soiled fur. Make sure the guinea pigs' home is cleaned every day and bedding changed regularly. Groom guinea pigs every day, checking their fur all over for any dirt, especially under the tail.

    If a guinea pig develops bald patches on its face, this could indicate the fungal disease ringworm. Seek veterinary advice straight away.

    Guinea pigs can suffer from vitamin C deficiency, which causes weight loss, general weakness and swollen joints. Ask your vet for advice on how to provide your guinea pigs with an adequate supply of this vitamin.

    If you have any concerns about your guinea pigs' health, ask your vet for advice.

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    HAMSTERS:

    The right pet for you?
    Hamsters are lively and clean and most are happy to live alone, although some species will live as pairs. They can take time to become tame and need to have peace and quiet during the day because they are nocturnal.

    What do hamsters need?

    • To live alone (some dwarf species will live as pairs).
    • Daily feeding on a mixed diet of seeds, grains, nuts and washed fruit and vegetables.
    • A constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water in a drip-feed bottle with a metal spout.
    • A large home that is kept in a warm place indoors, out of direct sunlight.
    • A nest box inside their home. The hamster needs somewhere it can burrow out of sight to sleep and hoard food.
    • A clean layer of sawdust on the floor of their home with soft hay and clean white kitchen paper for bedding. Do not use newspaper or cotton wool.
    • Plenty of exercise. A solid exercise wheel (no open rungs) should be fixed to the wall of the hamster's home.
    • Toys, like cardboard tubes and wooden cotton reels.
    • Their home to be tidied every day and thoroughly cleaned every week.
    • A hardwood gnawing block to wear down long teeth.
    • To be brushed every day, especially if they have long hair.
    • Quiet during the day.
    • To be taken to a vet if they are ill or injured.
    • To be looked after when you are away on holiday.

    Life span
    Hamsters live for up to two years.

    Behaviour
    In the wild, hamsters make underground homes and have strong nest building instincts. They are nocturnal and should be left alone and quiet during the day. If the temperature becomes too cold, they may go into a deep sleep called hibernation. When two or more hamsters are put together they usually fight, so it is best to keep just one hamster. However, some dwarf species will live happily as a pair - so ask about the particular hamster you are buying.

    Handling
    Pick up a hamster very gently using both hands as a scoop and stay close over a flat surface. Hamsters move very quickly and are likely to jump if they are frightened.

    Breeding
    The RSPCA strongly advises that you do not breed from your hamster as it is very difficult to find good homes for the young. The best way to ensure that hamsters do not breed is simply to keep the sexes apart.

    Health
    If your hamster develops skin sores, bathe them with warm water containing a mild antiseptic. If they persist, seek veterinary advice. Loss of fur and sore skin could also indicate parasites or the fungal disease ringworm.

    Sore eyes can be caused by dusty bedding, old age or breathing problems. Ask your vet for advice.

    Hamsters may suffer from overgrown teeth and claws. Both can be trimmed by a vet.

    The lining of a hamster's cheek pouches is very delicate and can be damaged by wood splinters or sharp food. If any material becomes lodged in the pouches, seek veterinary advice straight away.

    If a hamster is sneezing, breathing slowly and has a sore nose, it may have an infection that could develop into pneumonia. Keep the hamster warm and improve its diet, but seek veterinary advice if symptoms continue.

    Wet tail is a potentially fatal disease that is highly infectious. If a hamster is tired, loses its appetite and has watery diarrhoea, seek veterinary advice straight away.

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    GERBILS:

    The right pet for you?
    Gerbils are bright and inquisitive, and fun to observe, but they need your commitment and regular attention. Before getting any pet, you should think very hard about whether you can provide everything it needs, including love.

    What do gerbils need?

    • Companionship - to be with other gerbils.
    • Daily feeding on a diet of mixed grain and washed fruit and vegetables, with occasional sunflower seeds and peanuts.
    • A constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water in a drip feed bottle with a metal spout.
    • A large home called a gerbilarium (like a big aquarium tank with a wire mesh cover) that is kept indoors in a warm place, out of direct sunlight.
    • Plenty of burrowing material (potting compost and chopped straw or hay) and clean white kitchen paper or soft hay for bedding.
    • Toys to play with, like cardboard tubes and wooden cotton reels.
    • The gerbilarium to be tidied every day and thoroughly cleaned out every two to three weeks.
    • A softwood gnawing block to wear down long teeth.
    • Some quiet time every day to allow them to rest.
    • To be taken to a veterinary surgeon if they are ill or injured.
    • To be looked after when you are away on holiday.

    Life span
    Gerbils live for three years.

    Behaviour
    In the wild, gerbils live in groups called colonies, and it is unkind to keep one gerbil on its own. Either male or female gerbils from the same litter can live happily together, but adult gerbils that don't know each other are likely to fight. Gerbils are very active and have a strong need to burrow, scratch and dig, so their housing needs to cater for this. They are active by day and night, with about a three-hour cycle of activity and rest.

    Handling
    Encourage the gerbil to walk on to your outstretched hand, limiting its movement with your other hand over its back. Gerbils are very lively and are inclined to jump, so great care and caution is needed. They may become upset by too much handling. Never pick up a gerbil by its tail.

    Breeding
    The RSPCA strongly advises that you do not breed from your gerbils as it is very difficult to find good homes for the young. The best way to ensure that gerbils do not breed is simply to keep males and females apart.

    A female gerbil has an average of five to seven litters during her life, with up to eight young in each litter.

    Health
    If the gerbilarium is left in direct sunlight, gerbils can suffer heat exhaustion. They should recover if moved to a cool dark room and left alone, but the situation is easily avoided.

    A sore nose and eyes can be caused by gnawing wire or burrowing in dusty conditions. Make sure gerbils' accommodation is clean and suitable for their needs.

    Gerbils may suffer from overgrown teeth if there is a lack of material to chew on. Your veterinary surgeon may have to cut them back.

    Poor handling or a minor accident can cause a tail injury. The thinner part of the gerbil's long tail is easily injured and great care should be taken when handling and when choosing toys for the gerbilarium.

    The most serious disease to affect gerbils is called Tyzzer's Disease. Symptoms include tiredness, lack of appetite and diarrhoea. This disease can be fatal, so you should seek veterinary advice straight away.

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    FERRETS:

    The right pet for you?
    Ferrets are lively, playful and easily tamed, but they need a lot of space. They can also inflict severe bites and emit a strong musky smell. Before getting any pet, you should think very hard about whether you can provide everything it needs.

    What do ferrets need?

    • Companionship - to be with other ferrets and to have human company.
    • A diet of complete dried food supplemented with raw or cooked meat if desired. Meat should not be fed solely as it does not contain all their nutritional requirements.
    • A constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water in a drip feed bottle with a metal spout.
    • A large home that is kept up off the ground, in an open shed or indoor area out of direct sunlight and strong winds.
    • Separate areas inside their home.
    • A deep, clean layer of wood shavings on the floor and plenty of fresh meadow hay or old clothing for bedding.
    • Toys to play with, like cardboard tubes and wooden cotton reels.
    • Their home to be tidied every day and thoroughly cleaned every week.
    • A very large, secure area to play in.
    • Injections to prevent certain serious diseases.
    • To be taken to a veterinary surgeon if they are ill or injured.
    • To be looked after when you are away on holiday.

    Life span
    Ferrets live for about eight years.

    Behaviour
    Ferrets need to be with other ferrets and it is unkind to keep one ferret on its own. Either male or female ferrets from the same litter can live happily together. Although ferrets can appear very tame, they are not easy to look after as they need a great deal of space and may try to escape.

    Handling
    Pick up a ferret gently but firmly using both hands, one around its hindquarters and the other around the shoulders. Hold it close to your body. It is important to handle ferrets regularly to keep them tame.

    Breeding
    The RSPCA strongly advises that you do not breed from ferrets as it is very difficult to find good homes for the young. The best way to ensure that ferrets do not breed is to have them neutered. Male ferrets can be vasectomised. Female ferrets (jills) should be neutered because they can get serious diseases.

    Female ferrets come into season (a time when they can get pregnant) from early spring until September. If you keep female ferrets, they will become sexually mature at about eight months old, and you should seek expert advice on their care before this stage.

    Health
    Ferrets must be vaccinated against the potentially fatal disease canine distemper. Your veterinary surgeon will be able to advise you on this.

    If the ferrets' home is left in direct sunlight, ferrets can suffer from heat exhaustion. They should recover if moved to a cool dark room and given plenty of water, but the situation is easily avoided.

    Ferrets can catch the influenza virus from humans, and you should keep away from ferrets if you have flu. Keep an infected ferret away from the others and seek veterinary advice straight away.

    If a ferret is constantly scratching, producing bald patches in its fur and broken patches in its skin, it may have mange. Seek veterinary advice straight away.

    Ferrets can suffer from parasites (tiny living things which live on other creatures) if their bedding is not kept clean. Check ferrets' ears and coat regularly and seek veterinary advice if there is any sign of mites.

    If you have any concerns about the health of your ferrets, ask your veterinary surgeon for advice.

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    RATS & MICE

    The right pet for you?
    Mice are lively and easily tamed, but are active at night and may smell. Rats are intelligent and interesting to look at, but need a lot of space and attention.

    What do rats and mice need?

    • Companionship - to be with other rats or mice and to have human company.
    • A balanced diet of mixed grains, washed fruit and vegetables. Rats can also have seeds, nuts and small pieces of cooked meat. Both should have a salt or mineral lick to keep them healthy.
    • A constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water in a drip feed bottle with a metal spout.
    • A large home kept indoors in a warm place, out of direct sunlight.
    • Rats need a lot of floor space, ideally on more than one level.
    • Mice should have a solid exercise wheel (with no open rungs) fixed to the wall of their home.
    • A nest box inside their home and plenty of hiding places.
    • A clean layer of newspaper on the floor of their home with soft hay and kitchen paper for bedding. Do not use wood shavings or cotton wool.
    • Toys to play with, like cardboard tubes and ladders.
    • Their home to be tidied every day and thoroughly cleaned every week.
    • A hardwood gnawing block to wear down long teeth.
    • To be taken to a vet if they are ill or injured.
    • To be looked after when you are on holiday.

    Life span
    Rats and mice usually live for two to three years.

    Behaviour
    Mice need to be with other mice and rats with other rats. Male mice are likely to fight, unless they are littermates, so it is better to keep female mice in groups. However, they can be territorial, so introduce new mice into a neutral area first. Rats like the company of humans, but are clever enough to escape if they have a chance.

    Handling
    To pick up a rat, place one hand round its shoulders and support its hindquarters in your other hand. Handle rats fairly regularly to keep them tame. To pick up a mouse, lift it up by the base of the tail while supporting its body with your other hand. Hold it on your hand and keep it close to the ground or over a flat surface. Rats and mice may bite if frightened.

    Breeding
    The RSPCA strongly advises that you do not breed from rats or mice. The best way to ensure that they do not breed is to keep males and females apart.

    A female rat could have a litter of up to 11 young every four to five weeks, while a female mouse can have as many as 14 in a litter.

    Health
    If a mouse develops skin sores, bathe them with a mild antiseptic. If they persist, seek veterinary advice. Loss of fur and sore skin could also indicate parasites (tiny living things which live on other creatures) or the fungal disease ringworm.

    Symptoms of respiratory disease in both rats and mice include a loss of appetite, a nasal discharge and uneven breathing. Keep the animal warm and seek veterinary advice straight away.

    Rats and mice can suffer from overgrown teeth if they do not have enough wood, hard pellets or raw vegetables to gnaw on. Your vet may have to cut them back.

    If a rat holds its head on one side and walks in circles, it may have middle ear disease. Seek veterinary advice straight away.

    Injury or a virus can cause paralysis in mice, and you should seek veterinary advice straight away.

    A rat that has a sore nose and is sneezing could be allergic to the materials in its home. Use only good quality hay and wood shavings rather than sawdust.

    Rats, especially older ones, often develop lumps and tumours. If you notice any unusual growths, seek veterinary advice straight away.

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    HORSES & PONIES

    The right pet for you?
    Owning a horse or pony is rewarding, but a huge responsibility and very hard work. You need a lot of land, time, money and commitment.

    What do horses and ponies need?

    • Companionship - to be with other horses, ponies, donkeys, goats or cattle and to have human company.
    • Regular and frequent feeds of grass and fresh hay, apples, carrots and corn feed.
    • A constant supply of fresh, clean water to drink.
    • At least one hectare of pasture, with strong and safe fencing. This must be well managed and ideally divided in two, so that one area of grass can be rested while the other is used. Check for poisonous plants.
    • A shelter to protect them from cold, windy or hot weather.
    • Daily exercise or to be turned out in a large area.
    • To have stones and grit removed from their hooves every day before and after exercise.
    • If they are kept in a stable, they must be groomed and mucked out every day.
    • Visits from a farrier every four to eight weeks.
    • To be microchipped in case they are lost or stolen.
    • To be visited by a vet if they are ill or injured.
    • Regular injections to prevent certain serious diseases.
    • Worming every six to eight weeks.
    • To be looked after when you are on holiday.

    Life span
    Most horses and ponies live for over 20 years.

    Behaviour
    Horses and ponies are herd animals and may get upset if kept alone. Human company is also important. It is better for them to live outside than be permanently stabled, but they must have shelter available. All horses and ponies need to be able to roam and graze in a field or paddock.

    Training and handling
    Before taking on the responsibility of a horse or pony, do make sure you have had adequate tuition in horse care. Training may be available from a reputable riding school or equestrian centre. Alternatively, contact the British Horse Society on 0870 12 02 244.

    Horses and ponies are very sensitive animals and are easily frightened or upset. Approach their heads slowly and speak as you do so. Sudden noises or unexpected movements can cause alarm and make the animal difficult to handle.

    Breeding
    The RSPCA advises you do not breed from your horse or pony unless you have the facilities and expertise to properly care for a foal.

    Females (mares) over three years old come into season every three weeks from early spring to midsummer. Males (stallions) reach breeding age at two years. A castrated male is called a gelding. Males should be castrated before they are two years old.

    Health
    Horses and ponies should be vaccinated against serious diseases, including equine flu and tetanus. Equine flu is a very contagious virus - symptoms include fever, cough, runny eyes and nose, depression and loss of appetite. Do not ride a horse or pony with a cough except on veterinary advice.

    If a horse or pony's breathing becomes louder and more noticeable at rest and during light exercise, they may have broken wind, also known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and will need to see a vet.

    A horse or pony may develop colic - pain in the stomach due to indigestion, gas, or worms. Seek veterinary advice straight away. Horses should be routinely treated for worms.

    Laminitis is a very painful inflammation of the sensitive part inside the hooves. It can cause lameness and deformity, so seek veterinary advice straight away. Too much food and too little exercise cause it.

    Horses and ponies may suffer from thrush, a foul smelling inflammation in the foot. This is caused by dirty, wet bedding or poor farriery.

    It is a good idea to take out insurance to cover veterinary fees for your horse or pony.

    Your horse deserves the best possible care so make sure you are prepared to:

    • visit your pet at least twice a day to feed, exercise and remove dropping and wet bedding from the stable
    • regularly groom your pet - checking for lumps, bumps or bald patches - ask your vet for advice if you are concerned
    • have your pet injected against infections diseases - ask your vet for advice
    • make regular checks to ensure your pet's field is free from poisonous plants such as ragwort, laburnum and yew.

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    DONKEYS:

    A donkey needs:

    • Companionship with donkeys - to be with other donkeys or ponies and people.
    • A high fibre diet with the majority of the diet being fed as good quality barley or oat straw with some hay in the winter months, supplied in a net inside the shelter or stable.
    • A salt/mineral lick.
    • Some older or ill donkeys may require supplementary feeding, products should be high in fibre and suitable for laminitics e.g. high fibre nuts and laminitic safe chops.
    • A constant supply of fresh clean water.
    • One acre of pasture per two donkeys, preferably divided in two so that parts of the field can be used in rotation (used alternately).
    • Pasture that is well managed and kept clear of poisonous plants (especially ragwort).
    • Pasture that has good secure boundaries.
    • A draughtproof and waterproof shelter or stable with straw for bedding.
    • To be kept warm and dry in the winter and away from flies and sun in the summer.
    • Daily exercise.
    • Gentle regular grooming, particularly in spring.
    • Its feet to be picked out every day (removal of grit and stones).
    • Visits from the farrier for hoof trimming every six to ten weeks.
    • Monitoring for parasite burdens in conjunction with a vet and worming appropriately only when required.
    • Routine vaccinations and dental examination (especially for older donkeys).
    • Careful and sensitive handling.
    • To be under the care of a veterinary surgeon.
    • Your time and interest for the rest of its life.

    Additional information

    Lifespan: Up to 30 years (but may be longer).
    Sexually mature: Jennies (female) 18 months;
    Jacks (male) six to 12 months.
    In season: Every three weeks for five to seven days.
    Gestation: Ten to 14 months.
    Number of offspring: One.
    Handling: Donkeys need to be approached cautiously. Approach from the head and speak as you do. Donkeys enjoy being groomed and gentle handling. Sudden noises upset donkeys.
    Companionship: Donkeys are friendly animals and will be unhappy - and may start braying - if kept alone. They should always be kept with another equine - horse, pony or donkey. They bond with other animals and bonded pairs should not be separated. Human companionship is also needed.

    Health problems

    Lice: Infected donkeys will rub themselves vigorously on gates and fence posts and may develop open sores. Seek advice from your veterinary surgeon.
    Mud fever: Caused by constant exposure to wet and muddy conditions. Occurs on the lower forelegs and in severe cases the legs will swell and the animal will become lame. Seek advice from a veterinary surgeon.
    Sweet itch: A kind of eczema caused by allergy to midges. The symptoms are a badly rubbed mane and tail. Seek veterinary advice.
    Intestinal worms: All donkeys will pick up worms and need regular faecal sampling to determine parasite burdens and worming only when necessary.
    Gastro-intestinal problems: These are often not obvious, as the signs are not as clear as in horses. Dullness, loss of appetite and behavioural changes should be regarded with suspicion and veterinary advice sought. Hyperlipaema: The most common killer disease of donkeys, associated with stress and obesity. Consult your veterinary surgeon straightaway if the donkey is off its food, uncomfortable and standing over a water trough but not drinking.

    If you have any concerns about your donkey's health, do ask your vet.

    Your donkey deserves the best possible care so make sure you are prepared to:

    • visit your pet at least twice a day to feed, exercise and remove dropping and wet bedding from the stable
    • regularly groom your pet - checking for lumps, bumps or bald patches - ask your vet for advice if you are concerned
    • have your pet injected against infections diseases - ask your vet for advice
    • make regular checks to ensure your pet's field is free from poisonous plants such as ragwort, laburnum and yew.

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    BUDGIES & CANARIES:

    The right pet for you?
    Budgies and canaries are colourful and friendly companions that need to live with other birds in a large aviary. This can be expensive to build or buy and needs regular cleaning, for health reasons.

    What do budgies and canaries need?

    • Companionship - to be with other budgies or canaries and to have human company.
    • A balanced diet of bird food, seed shaken through a fine sieve to get rid of dust, and regular treats like fresh washed lettuce, carrots and apple.
    • A constant supply of fresh, clean water.
    • A large aviary, safe from predators and with sleeping areas or nesting boxes to give protection from cold, wind and direct sunlight.
    • Daily exercise. There must be plenty of space for flying in the aviary.
    • Lots of wooden perches for sleeping on. Budgies like to perch high up and all at the same level, while canaries need bark-covered twigs to perch on.
    • Branches, toys and vegetation in the aviary to create an interesting environment.
    • Clean water for bathing.
    • Grit to help digestion.
    • A cuttlefish bone to peck at.
    • The aviary to be cleaned regularly.
    • To be taken to a vet if they are ill or injured.
    • To be looked after when you are on holiday.

    Life span
    Budgies can live for up to 10 years, canaries for five to six years.

    Behaviour
    In the wild, budgies and canaries live in large groups so it is unkind to have just one bird. Get a pair or a group of male or female birds at the same time to avoid jealousy. Canaries and budgies should not be kept in the same aviary as canaries are smaller and may be bullied. All captive birds need a stimulating environment and space to fly around.

    Handling
    Budgies can be trained to land on your finger and can be handled quite frequently without stress. Canaries should be handled as little as possible. To pick up a bird, place one hand over its back. The tail should lie along the inside of your wrist and the head should rest between the first and second fingers, while the thumb and other fingers restrain the wings. Relax your fingers to make your grip as gentle as possible - never squeeze the bird.

    Breeding
    The RSPCA advises that you do not breed from budgies or canaries as it is very difficult to find good homes for the young. The best way is to keep males and females apart. Female budgies come into season from early spring until autumn, and will lay up to six eggs in one clutch. Only breed if you are able to provide or find good homes for any offspring.

    Health
    If your budgie or canary is huddled on its perch, wheezing and gasping for breath, it may have an infection that could lead to bronchitis or pneumonia. Keep the bird warm and seek veterinary advice straight away.

    Budgies may suffer from an overgrown beak or claws. The beak can usually be kept in trim by pecking at a cuttlefish bone, but it may need to be trimmed by a vet. Claws can be kept short by providing perches with a rough or bark-covered surface. If they need clipping, a vet should do this.

    Budgies may develop a contagious condition called scaly face, a grey crust that spreads around the beak and face. It is caused by a tiny parasite and can be treated by your vet.

    Canaries may suffer from digestive disorders, causing listlessness, sleepiness and loss of appetite. If a canary has constipation, diarrhoea or blood in its droppings, keep it away from the others, make sure it is warm and seek veterinary advice straight away.

    Feather plucking can be a sign of boredom or stress. Make sure your budgie or canary has suitable companions, lots of room to fly and plenty of interesting toys and perches.

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    PARROTS:

    Birds in the parrot family include small lovebirds and parrots, which do not grow beyond 12 centimetres, right up to the large macaws, which can grow to over 80 centimetres.

    Your parrot deserves the best care possible so make sure you are prepared to:

  • find out how your parrot will change as he/she matures, including changes in size and behaviour, so that you know how best to interact with him/her and provide the right care, environment and companionship
     
  • check that the person who looks after your parrot when you go on holiday knows all about the care needed, including the specialist feeding and how to minimise any disturbance
     
  • accept that some parrots can live for more than 50 years.
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    CHICKENS:

    Wherever they are kept, all species of farm animals have certain basic needs that must be adequately catered for if the animals are to have an acceptable quality of life.

    These include:

    • continuous ready access to an adequate supply of clean, fresh drinking water
    • provision of feed of a type and form appropriate to the age and species of animal, to maintain them in good health and to satisfy their nutritional needs. Such foodstuffs should be properly protected from rodents and other pests.
    • continuous access to shelter, free from sharp edges, protrusions etc. which could cause injury, and including a clean, dry, well-bedded lying or roosting (for poultry) area large enough to allow all animals using the shelter to lie down (or roost) together at the same time.
    • additional space and a suitable environment for exercise, feeding, dunging and the expression of natural behaviours.
    • competent care and management from those with the knowledge and skill to ensure the animals' wellbeing.
    • regular, frequent inspection (at least daily, and more frequently for vulnerable animals such as those that are ill, or very young) of each animal.
    • appropriate preventative and/or curative veterinary treatment available at all times. Vaccinations, should be carried out by a veterinary surgeon, who should also advise on worming. Foot trimming of goats should be carried out either by the vet, or some other competent person.
    • company of their own kind - animals should not be kept isolated from others.
    Water
    There must be a clean source of water available at all times. When new chickens are introduced, they must be provided with facilities to which they are already accustomed, as chickens do not like to drink from unfamiliar drinkers. Suitable drinkers should be used for young chicks to prevent them climbing in and drowning. As the birds become bigger and require more water, alternative drinkers should be introduced and the old drinkers should be removed gradually over a number of days.

    Food
    Day-old chicks will peck at small pellet-shaped objects, and within a few days they will learn to recognise food particles. Chickens will spend much of their day scratching and foraging for small seeds and roots in the ground. They will need additional food such as grain to provide an adequate balance of protein, carbohydrates and minerals. As the female birds mature they will begin to lay eggs and a calcium supplement should be included in the diet. If they are kept on a grassed area, the grass should not be allowed to become too long, as, if eaten, long strands can become impacted in the crop, making it difficult for the birds to digest food. Chickens must always have access to insoluble grit to aid digestion.

    Nest boxes
    Laying chickens should be encouraged to lay their eggs in a designated nest box area, especially if the eggs are intended for human consumption. The boxes should be draught-free and lined with clean, dry and comfortable material such as straw or wood shavings. Many chickens prefer to find a quiet, isolated place to lay their eggs away from their pen mates.

    Shelter
    Chickens will naturally seek a raised position to roost at dusk, as a means of protection against predators. They should be given a warm, dry shelter with raised perches that are approximately 3-5cm in width with rounded edges, to enable the birds to grip. Enough perching space should be provided so as to allow all the chickens to roost at the same time, with at least one square meter of floor space for nine birds. To help maintain good feather condition, there should always be a dry place where the chickens can dust bathe and preen their feathers.

    Where chickens are given access to a shed, the entrance to this should be wide enough to allow the hens to pass through without difficulty. The shed should be bedded with clean straw, cleaned out frequently, and checked to ensure that there are no harmful parasites which could compromise the birds' health. Adequate ventilation is very important and, while it is important to keep the birds warm, there must also be good air circulation inside the shed.

    In smaller houses, a greater proportion of birds tend to go out onto the range area during the day, and only use the shed at night. When they roost, hens like to be near each other as this gives them a greater sense of safety. However, there must be enough space either side of the perch for hens get up and down from these without injuring themselves. It also helps to maintain a comfortable temperature within the shed - particularly during the colder months.

    Pasture
    The outdoor area will require careful management and should be given periods of rest, to allow the ground and grass to recover. It is important that the area is sufficiently large enough to be divided - unless there are alternative grass areas nearby to use - in order to allow the chickens to roam on good pasture every day. On the range area, there should be additional means of overhead shelter, to protect them against direct sunlight, strong wind and driving rain.

    Fencing
    Fences should be well maintained and provide appropriate protection against predators. The design should ensure that the birds cannot escape or become trapped.

    Worming
    Poultry kept on the same ground for a prolonged period will need regular worming.

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    REPTILES:

    The right pet for you?
    Reptiles like snakes and lizards may be interesting and unusual, but they need specialist care and some can be a challenge to keep well. They are also expensive to look after correctly. Before getting any pet, you should think very hard about whether you can provide everything it needs.

    What do reptiles need?

    • A great deal of space. A baby iguana, for example, may initially look small, but can grow to nearly one and a half metres long. A Burmese python can reach over five metres. As reptiles grow, they need more and more space.
    • To be fed with the right kind of food. You may have to obtain this from a specialist, and the reptile's diet could include insects or rodents.
    • A specially built home that recreates the reptile's natural environment as closely as possible. This includes controlling the levels and quality of light, with a range of temperatures and humidity in accordance with the animal's needs. Some reptiles need to spend time in water to bathe or swim, branches for climbing and many require ultra-violet light, which can all be very expensive to provide.
    • A secure enclosure is also important. A reptile that escapes from its warm environment into the wild can suffer and die. Some reptiles are dangerous, such as venomous snakes and caiman alligators.
    • Anyone deciding to keep a reptile needs to find out about the specialist care it needs in captivity and be prepared to take on the commitment of time and money throughout its long life.
    • To have help from an experienced keeper on keeping and a veterinary surgeon if they are ill or injured. You may have to travel some distance to find a specialist vet.
    • To be looked after when you are away on holiday.

    Life span
    Iguanas can live for 20 years and some snakes for 50 years.

    Behaviour
    Most reptiles kept as pets originally come from tropical or sub-tropical climates. They are entirely dependent upon their owners to provide suitable conditions for them and will suffer a great deal if their complex needs are not met.

    Handling
    All reptiles need careful and expert handling. It is important to learn the correct way to pick up a snake or lizard, to avoid injuring the animal or putting yourself at risk. Large reptiles should not be handled by young children and large snakes may need more than one person to handle.

    Breeding
    The RSPCA strongly advises that you do not breed from reptiles, unless you are prepared to take on the long-term commitment to provide the specialist care for any offspring, or you can already rehome to someone with the required knowledge and facilities.

    Health
    Many reptiles need ultra-violet light from the sun to help make vitamin D and absorb calcium. In captivity this needs to be provided artificially, otherwise they will start to absorb calcium from their own bones, leaving them too weak to move.

    Some snakes, like the Californian kingsnake or the garter snake, need artificial heat. However, they can be seriously burned if this is not provided correctly.

    If a Burmese python does not have access to water for bathing, it may have difficulty shedding its skin. Some snakes, such as many pythons and the anaconda, need to spend time in water to stay healthy.

    Despite many reptiles now being bred in captivity, every year, millions of animals, including reptiles, are trapped from the wild and sold into the international pet trade. Many die during capture or transport, and those that reach pet shops may be sick or weak from their ordeal.

    A variety of illnesses, injuries and infections can be caused by keeping reptiles in unsuitable conditions. It is vital to find out as much as possible about a reptile's natural environment and its diet in order to prevent suffering.

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    SNAKES:

    Your snake deserves the best care possible so make sure you are also prepared to:

    • learn more about what you're taking on - snakes can vary greatly in size, from less than one metre for some king snakes, to up to 10 metres for a reticulated python
    • take care choosing a floor covering that allows natural behaviour, like burrowing - so, if your snake eats it, no harm is caused
    • only keep venomous snakes if you have a secure enclosure, experience and a Dangerous Wild Animals Act licence from your local authority.

    Note:
    Most snakes are only active at night or during low light levels, so make sure the location of your snake's home, the types of lamps and the time of day he/she is handled does not cause disturbance or harm.

    Points to consider before you choose your pet:

  • research the species of animal you plan to keep.
  • each species will have special needs
  • take care to avoid acquiring a wild-caught animal
  • prepare a stable home
  • find out about the humidity, temperature and light levels needed for the reptile being kept and, therefore, the most suitable type of equipment
  • make sure you have the appropriate food and know where to obtain further supplies
  • find a vet with experience of treating the species of animal you plan to keep.

    Points to consider after you acquire your pet:
  • maintain a stable home for your pet
  • use thermometers and thermostats to monitor and maintain a stable temperature range
  • hydrometers can also be used to monitor and maintain stable humidity levels
  • maintain good hygiene using appropriate products and ventilation, whilst minimising the disturbance of the animal
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    LIZARDS:

    Your lizard deserves the best care possible so make sure you are also prepared to:

    • find out when your lizard is naturally active - some prefer to be active at night, others during the day - and make sure the location of your lizard's home, the lighting levels and the time of day he/she is handled does not cause disturbance or harm
       
    • check that the person who looks after your lizard when you go on holiday knows all about the care needed, including maintaining suitable lighting and heating
       
    • take care choosing a floor covering that allows natural behaviour, like burrowing - so, if your lizard eats it, no harm is caused.

    Note:
    Watch out for bone deformities that can be caused by an unbalanced diet or insufficient UV lighting.

    Points to consider before you choose your pet:

  • research the species of animal you plan to keep.
  • each species will have special needs
  • take care to avoid acquiring a wild-caught animal
  • prepare a stable home
  • find out about the humidity, temperature and light levels needed for the reptile being kept and, therefore, the most suitable type of equipment
  • make sure you have the appropriate food and know where to obtain further supplies
  • find a vet with experience of treating the species of animal you plan to keep.

    Points to consider after you acquire your pet:
  • maintain a stable home for your pet
  • use thermometers and thermostats to monitor and maintain a stable temperature range
  • hydrometers can also be used to monitor and maintain stable humidity levels
  • maintain good hygiene using appropriate products and ventilation, whilst minimising the disturbance of the animal.
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    TORTOISES & TERRAPINS:

    Your tortoise or terrapin deserves the best care possible so make sure you are also prepared to:

    • check that the person who looks after your pet when you go on holiday knows all about the care needed, including maintaining suitable lighting and heating
       
    • accept that tortoises can live for more than 50 years, and terrapins for 30 years
       
    • find out what size your tortoise or terrapin will grow to - for instance, the African spurred or sulcata tortoise is a giant that can reach 80 centimetres!

    Note:
    Don't oil or scratch your tortoise's shell as this can block the pores, attract dirt and increase the risk of infection. Also, watch out for shell deformities and other health problems, which can be caused by an unbalanced diet or insufficient UV lighting.

    Points to consider before you choose your pet:

  • research the species of animal you plan to keep.
  • each species will have special needs
  • take care to avoid acquiring a wild-caught animal
  • prepare a stable home
  • find out about the humidity, temperature and light levels needed for the reptile being kept and, therefore, the most suitable type of equipment
  • make sure you have the appropriate food and know where to obtain further supplies
  • find a vet with experience of treating the species of animal you plan to keep.

    Points to consider after you acquire your pet:
  • maintain a stable home for your pet
  • use thermometers and thermostats to monitor and maintain a stable temperature range
  • a secure outside enclosure for the summer months
  • maintain good hygiene using appropriate products and ventilation, whilst minimising the disturbance of the animal.
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    FISH:

    The right pet for you?
    Fish are colourful and fascinating to watch. Setting up an aquarium or pond can be expensive and time-consuming, but most fish are easy to look after.

    What do fish need?

  • A stable home
  • Companionship - many fish live in groups.
  • Most fish need specially prepared fish food and some also eat live food like water fleas.
  • Indoor fish need a large aquarium with a ventilated cover. It should be kept out of direct sunlight and away from extremes of hot and cold. The bottom of the aquarium should be covered with clean gravel.
  • The surface area of the water must be sufficient for all the fish to breathe. An aquarium should have a filter to keep the water clean and, when needed, an aeration pump to regulate the amount of oxygen in the water and a heater and thermostat to regulate the temperature.
  • An aquarium needs to be cleaned regularly and the water changed appropriately.
  • If fish are suitable to be kept outdoors, they need a large pond with some overhanging plants or trees to provide shade.
  • A pond needs to be cleaned out once a year and the water changed. Fallen leaves must be cleared from the surface of the water and plants thinned out. If the pond freezes, some of the ice should be melted carefully to maintain a hole.
  • A variety of water plants in the pond or aquarium to provide oxygen and cover. Smooth rocks and other objects also provide hiding places.
  • Plenty of light to encourage water plants to grow.
  • To have help from a vet if they are ill or injured.
  • To be looked after when you are on holiday.

    Life span
    Goldfish can live for up to 25 years.

    Behaviour
    Many fish live in groups called shoals in the wild and they need the company of their own kind. When choosing fish make sure they can live happily together and are healthy. It is best to choose types that live at different depths in the water - surface, middle and bottom levels - but don't put too many fish in together as this can cause crowding resulting in competition for food, poor water quality and fish not being able to breathe.

    Handling
    Fish are very delicate and sensitive. They should not be caught and moved by hand as this is very distressing for them and they are easily injured. Use a large smooth net to gently lift one fish out of the water. Avoid any sudden changes in temperature or light level.

    Breeding
    Make sure you have the space and facilities to accommodate the young.

    All fish develop from eggs and most lay eggs that are fertilised outside the body. Some tropical fish give birth to young that are tiny versions of the adult. Different fish need different conditions to breed.

    Health
    If fish are gulping at the surface of the water, they could be suffering from oxygen starvation. Improve the oxygen supply by regular water changes, cleaning out the aquarium or pond, using an air pump and adding plants.

    Sudden changes in water temperature can be very dangerous. When moving your fish or changing the water, make sure the temperature is kept even. Always use an additive to tap water to remove chlorine. Good fish stores will advise on the ones to use in your area.

    White strands or tufts like cotton wool on the body of a fish could indicate a serious fungus disease. This can be treated by adding anti-fungus medication to the water.

    If a fish has a trailing brown thread from its body, it may have constipation. A more varied diet is needed, including vegetable bits and some live food.

    Fish may suffer from white spot disease, caused by a parasite. If there are white spots on your fish, you can buy a cure from most pet shops. The whole aquarium will need to be treated.
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    GOLDFISH:

    Your goldfish deserves the best care possible so make sure you are prepared to:

  • check that the person who looks after your fish when you go on holiday also knows how to monitor and maintain the water quality and is aware of the need to avoid over-feeding

     
  • take action quickly if your fish are gaping at the surface - this may indicate low oxygen and high carbon dioxide in the water

     
  • if kept outside ensure that an outdoor pond is deep enough for goldfish to survive any extreme changes in temperature around their home - such as when the pond ices over.

    Be prepared before you bring a new fish home. Find out about the range of water temperatures your fish can live in - sudden changes in water temperature can be fatal.
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    STICK INSECT:

    The right pet for you?
    Stick insects are relatively easy to keep and can be interesting to look at. Before getting any pet, you should think very hard about whether you can provide everything it needs.

    What do stick insects need?

    • Companionship - to be with other stick insects (but kept apart from other insect types).
    • A diet of fresh leaves. Most types of stick insect will live on bramble, but the Indian stick insect also eats privet, hawthorn and rose. These leaves should be kept on the twig and stood in a pot of water, with a cover to prevent the insects drowning. Avoid any leaves that may have been sprayed with pesticide. Spray the leaves with water daily and change them once a week.
    • The floor of their home to be lined with paper, which should be changed once a week. Be careful to keep an eye on the stick insects while cleaning out the home, so that they are not thrown out with old plants.
    • A large, well-ventilated home, that is kept indoors in a warm place out of direct sunlight. They should have plenty of room to climb out of their skins.
    • To be allowed out to fly occasionally if they have wings.
    • To be left alone just before they shed their skins and for a few days afterwards.
    • To be looked after when you are away on holiday.

    Life span
    Stick insects live for about 12 months.

    Behaviour
    Stick insects should be kept with other stick insects but must not be overcrowded. They may fight and even eat each other if they are not given enough water, are fed incorrectly or do not have sufficient space.

    Handling
    Stick insects are very delicate and should be handled with great care. It is best to pick them up with an artist's paintbrush.

    Breeding
    The RSPCA strongly advises that you do not breed from stick insects as it is very difficult to find good homes for the young.

    In some species of stick insect, females produce fertile eggs without mating. This is known as parthenogenesis. Stick insects will lay between 100 and 700 eggs in a clutch, depending on the species. Eggs should be collected and carefully destroyed.

    Health
    If a stick insect loses a leg, this is not fatal as it will grow another one after its next skin change.

    A stick insect that is twitching has probably eaten leaves that have been treated with pesticide and it is likely to die.

    If a stick insect has problems shedding its skin, you can help. When the stick insect looks fat, gently moisten the old skin and carefully peel it away.

    Stick insects may suffer from mites if their home is not kept clean and well-ventilated.

    If you have any concerns about the health of your stick insects, ask your veterinary surgeon or an expert for advice.

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    MONITORING & HEALTH CHECKS:

    The most important initial step in providing good care for your pet is to get to know it well.
    Read about how the animal would live in the wild - and therefore the care needed in captivity - and contact other experienced keepers and organisations to find out how to set up a stable environment. Ensure you have all the equipment and access to the correct diet before you take the animal home. Find a vet experienced in the treatment of the species, so you know where you can take your pet if it becomes sick or injured.

    Essential health precautions and checks for your pet:
    By maintaining an environment suitable for the species of animal, feeding the required nutrient-balanced diet and routine monitoring; many health problems can be prevented.

    • Quarantine any new arrival to make sure it is healthy before keeping it close to any other animals.

    • Find out about any health problems your species of animal is vulnerable to.

    • Keep a look out for any signs of parasites.

    • Always wash your hands after handling your pet and cleaning any equipment in its home to reduce the risk of passing on any diseases to other animals or becoming sick after having contact with any bacteria.

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    COCOA MULCH:

    A Warning Message from Ali Taylor, Head of Welfare, Battersea Dogs Home:

    Yesterday one of our dog agility friends experienced a tragedy and wanted me to pass a special message along to all dog lovers.

    Over the weekend the doting owner of two young lab mixes purchased Cocoa Mulch from Target to use in their garden. They loved the way it smelled and it was advertised to keep cats away from their garden.

    Their dog Calypso decided that the mulch smelled good enough to eat and devoured a large helping. She vomited a few times which was typical when she eats something new but wasn't acting lethargic in any way. The next day, Mum woke up and took Calypso out for her morning walk. Half way through the walk, she had a seizure and died instantly.

    Although the mulch had
    NO warnings printed on the label, upon further investigation on the company's website, this product is HIGHLY toxic to dogs and cats.

    Cocoa Mulch is manufactured by Hershey's, and they claim that "It is true that studies have shown that 50% of the dogs that eat Cocoa Mulch can suffer physical harm to a variety of degrees (depending on each individual dog). However, 98% of all dogs won't eat it."


    Also included was the following information -

    'Cocoa Mulch, which is sold by Home Depot, Foreman's Garden Supply and other Garden supply stores, contains a lethal ingredient called "Theobromine". It is lethal to dogs and cats. It smells like chocolate and it really attracts dogs. They will ingest this stuff and die.
    Several deaths already occurred in the last 2-3 weeks. Just a word of caution, check what you are using in your gardens and be aware of what your gardeners are using in your gardens.

    Cocoa bean shells contain potentially toxic quantities of theobromine, a xanthine compound similar in effects to caffeine and theophylline. A dog that ingested a lethal quantity of garden mulch made from cacao bean shells developed severe convulsions and died 17 hours later. Analysis of the stomach contents and the ingested cacao bean shells revealed the presence of lethal amounts of theobromine.'
     

    DISCLAIMER:

     This website contains general advice on those animal-related matters which, in the RSPCA's experience, affect animal lovers and pet owners most often. Unfortunately, it is not possible in the context of the website to take into account individual situations or consider unusual problems or circumstances.

    You should seek further advice and assistance from your vet, the RSPCA or other appropriate expert if you are concerned about the welfare of a particular animal.

    The RSPCA regrets that it cannot accept any responsibility for acts or omissions based on the following advice which is intended as a general introduction to animal-related problems only.

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                   Site Last Updated : Saturday, 19 January 2013